In graduate school, I met people from more or less everywhere. I tended to spend a disproportionate amount of time with Indians -- the kind who give preference to gods that have multiple arms; not the kind that once hunted buffalo in North America -- specifically a guy in my research group named Abhi. One day, I believed he had recently returned a squash racket he was dissatisfied with, he remarked on the differences between businesses in the US versus those in India. Evidentially, customer satisfaction and customer service are a little wanting in his homeland. Most companies in the US have fairly forgiving policies concerning returns and warranties. However, most would require a person to send defective products in for servicing, or take them back to the store where they were purchased -- these last two options can be quite challenging for a Volunteer.
Last April my father asked me what I wanted for my birthday. All I really wanted were shoes. Being a little on the broke side when I started here, I didn't have a big budget. I arrived with one pair of running shoes which have not improved with the humidity. I needed new running shoes, but for every day walking I had been using flipflops. Now would be a good time to mention that I don't really walk well. In fact, I tend to trip a lot; tripping over lines painted on the street is not uncommon for me. I found that this penchant for falling increases significantly when I'm wearing flipflops or any shoe that isn't attached to my foot. I thought I'd get used to wearing them, but after a few months it didn't seem to be the case. So I also needed some sort of sandal type shoe because it's just too darn humid to walking around everywhere in shoes.
Fortunately for me, my roommate worked for a store in Dallas called 'Whole Earth Provision Company'. There he sold camping equipment to yuppies trying to help them achieve that mid-life crisis they had read so much about. In the course of working there, he became quite familiar with all the different shoes available. He was fond of a company called Chaco, and an informal survey of the volunteers here showed these to be the preferred shoe of volunteers, second only to the 4ST Jandal sold locally. Bryan helped me figure out what size I needed and I sent my dad an email asking for shoes.
The shoes came, and I was quite happy with them. I got a new pair of New Balances for running and made a note to try to avoid running in the rain. The Chacos were simple, comfortable and quickly molded around my feet. They worked quite well with the terrain here and seemed fairly durable. This remained the case until the end of November when I noticed the tread was separating from the sole.
This was a little frustrating for me. I understand that things happen, and I don't expect products to work perfectly. I also understand that most people don't want to warranty stuff from overseas, so I assumed I'd have to get them back to the US. I thought, well, I might as well see what my options are. I emailed Chaco, explaining my predicament, and asking what my warranty options were. This is a reply from Ilene in customer service:
I do apologize for all of the inconveniences this has caused you. Recently, we changed our glue product to a water base glue, to safe guard our employee's from chemicals that we had to use with our last glue product. During this time, our temperature and combining procedure was a challenge, so a few pairs have slipped thru our testing process. We have since then cured the problem and our quality is like it should be.
If possible, could you send me a digital picture of the problem, then I will be more then happy to send you a new pair?
Again, I do apologize for any inconveniences this has caused you.
I was really impressed with her candor and honesty about the problem. I also thought it was generous of them to just send me a new pair of shoes and not requiring the original pair in return. I sent a couple images of the problem, and Ilene told me they would mail me out a new pair at the first of the year. Fortunately for me, they chose priority mail instead of the ground, which would have taken months to get here, and the new sandals arrived last week. The customer service with this company is simply amazing, and I'm sure this is reflected in their customer loyalty.